Sunday, 24 March 2019

Drama’s tangled web of secrets add up to a not so gilded cage

Drama’s tangled web of secrets add up to a not so gilded cage

A Doll’s House | Progress Theatre | Thursday, March 7

IBSEN’S A Doll’s House sits squarely within Progress Theatre’s tradition of staging socially committed drama. Adrian Tang’s accomplished production brings to life this popular classic of the late 19th century.

The lights come up on a comfortable middle-class drawing room, the home of capricious Nora Helmer (Tara O’Connor) and her staid and conventional husband Torvald (Chris Pett).

Money is the key focus of the play and we meet the Helmers when their fortunes are on the up, since Helmer has a new and well-paid position at the bank.

Torvald revels in financial security. But it hasn’t always been that way. Nora’s confessions to her old friend Kristine (Juliana Tiu) reveal that, in the past, Nora borrowed money to enable a much-needed trip abroad for her husband’s health.

Whilst Nora is proud of what she accomplished, as a woman, for her family, she is also acutely aware that the debt must remain a secret from her husband, in a society where men held the power.

Secrets often spell trouble. Nora comes under threat from her moneylender Krogstad (Paul Gallantry) and she is soon caught within a tangled web of obligations and conflicting loyalties.

As the pressure grows, Nora’s composure — and her marriage — begin to disintegrate.

Chris Pett’s Torvald conveys stolid respectability and a narrow, judgmental morality which ultimately alienates his wife.

Full of conviction and energy, Tara O’Connor totally holds the stage as the vivacious but highly-strung Nora.

Through voice, gesture and movement, O’Connor deftly switches mood from flirtatious and exuberant to anxious, distressed and desperate. Her frantic tarantella, in preparation for a fancy dress party, reveals her enervated state.

Full marks to other members of the cast: the young actors playing children Ivor and Emmy, Michelle Appleby as the serene but put-upon servant Anne-Marie, and Mikhail Grozny as the world-weary Dr Rank.

This well-paced production should please and engage the audience, but it will also provoke viewers to consider power struggles within relationships and within wider society.

My guess is that opinion will be divided over Nora’s final slamming of the domestic door.

Go and see this drama and decide for yourself if Nora makes the right choice.

A Doll’s House is booking until Saturday, March 16. For tickets and times, visit www.progresstheatre.co.uk

Susan Creed

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